Armenian government passes bill criminalising corruption among high-ranking officials

By bne IntelliNews November 21, 2016

The Armenian government approved a draft bill to criminalise the “illegal enrichment” of high-ranking state officials on November 18, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported. The bill had been drafted by the government and amended by parliament, and applies to some 600 officials, including ministers, judges and their family members, who will now be legally required to report their assets to a special state commission.

Corruption is widespread in Armenia, where seemingly modestly paid officials build fortunes for themselves and their families. An entire class of political oligarchs believed to comprise some two dozen members hold positions in parliament, and use their political power to further their private business interests. Many officials have allegedly attributed their wealth to “gifts” received from other individuals.

According to Justice Minister Arpine Hovannisian, officials will have to “reasonably substantiate” assets that exceed their annual salaries by at least AMD5mn (€9,840). If they fail to do so, they will be liable to prosecution.

Under a new prime minister, former Gazprom executive Karen Karapetyan, the Armenian government has endeavoured to fight corruption and tax evasion in the country. The grey economy is believed to account for some 40% of Armenia's GDP, and to come from petty tax evasion, but also from politically influential oligarchs who control imports and exports and do not pay due taxes on their activities.

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